If you’re heading to the Pacific Northwest and you have a weekend to spare, a road trip from Portland to Bend, Oregon should be on your to-do list. This drive is so much fun to do!
Many travelers headed to Bend, OR as their final destination tend to fly into PDX in Portland, OR. From there, the drive from Portland to Bend (or vice versa) can easily be tackled in 3 hours.
But why would you want to make that drive without stopping to see some of the awesome spots, hikes, and sights in between? The drive from Portland to Bend is so scenic.
You’ll pass by various types of scenery, starting with the densely forested atmosphere of the Portland area all the way to the high desert flora and fauna of Central Oregon.
To help you make the most of your trip, we’re sharing a complete list of our favorite stops to explore along the way from Portland to Bend. So without further ado, let’s dive right into it!
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Table of Contents
ROUTES FROM PORTLAND TO BEND
There are a few routes you could take to get to Bend from Portland (or Portland from Bend), but this list focuses on the stops along these two main routes— taking US-26 all the way down and passing Mount Hood vs. taking I-84 east through the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, then down to US-26.
What’s the difference? Well first off, let’s review what you’ll see along both routes.
- I-84 to US-26 – You’ll be going through the Columbia River Gorge to Hood River, where you’ll then take the 35 down to US-26 E and finally along US-97 S to Bend. This route is longer and more time consuming than the more direct path below.
- US-26 – More of a straight-shot to Bend from Portland, which will save you time and miles on your car. You won’t be passing the Columbia River Gorge or Hood River, but you’ll pass Mount Hood and everything thereafter.
The mileage and duration of your trip will depend on which route you take. If you go with the longer, more scenic route of I-84, you’ll be adding on another 50 miles, but a 50 miles well worth it. The total travel time really depends on how long you stop at each of the pitstops on your itinerary!
I’d recommend going the longer route if you haven’t had the chance to explore the Columbia River Gorge or the town of Hood River yet. If you’ve been blessed to have explored the Columbia River Gorge before, then why not take the US-26 route and check out some new sights along the way?
17 BEST ROAD TRIP STOPS FROM PORTLAND TO BEND
I doubt Portland needs a formal introduction. But if you were so keen to read one — Portland is a bustling city in Oregon and is one of the greenest cities in the world. Portland prides itself on embracing weirdness, which makes this city so fun to explore!
There are tons of quirky neighborhoods to explore, each with its own unique atmosphere and charm. The food truck scene is popping, as are the coffee and craft beer scenes.
If you’re starting (or ending) your road trip in Portland, make sure you have at least three extra days to eat, drink, and explore the city of Portland!
I personally love Portland so much that I opted to live there for a month in an Airbnb during the C-19 days when wfh was mandatory. It was easily some of the most memorable weeks of those crummy years!
With all that said, Portland gets a huge thumbs-up from me. Definitely allocate a couple of days to exploring the city!
Read more: The Best Neighborhoods To Visit In Portland, Oregon and 35+ Affordable, Unique, and Off The Beaten Path Things To Do in Portland
McMenamins Edgefield is so much more than a historic hotel. This property is 74-acres large and located only 20 minutes away from downtown Portland. Formerly a poor farm during the Great Depression, McMenamins is a wonder to see and explore. It’s so expansive there is even a visitor’s guide and map of the property available to visitors.
Seriously, the estate is huge! You could easily spend a few hours wandering about the extensive gardens (glass of wine or a pint of beer in hand), play golf, visit the glass/pottery shop, distillery, and winery, take a seat and enjoy one of the many bars, eat lunch in the outdoor courtyards, watch a recent-run movie in the theater, listen to live music, and explore the gift shop. Tons of stuff to do!
If you’re a hotel guest here, you can also take advantage of the beautiful soaking pool next to the tea bar.
COLUMBIA RIVER GORGE
The Columbia River Gorge is so beautiful and packed with jaw-dropping waterfalls, overlooks, and hikes that they named it a National Scenic Area. The Historic Columbia River Highway Scenic Byway is actually considered one of the most scenic drives in the country!
Along this 70-mile highway, you will have the chance to see several historic buildings, monuments, fish hatcheries, the Oneonta Gorge, and numerous waterfalls including Latourell Falls, Multnomah Falls, Wahkeena Falls, Shepperd’s Dell Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, Wahclella Falls, and Fairy Falls. Given recent fires over the years, it’s best to check their website to check for trail closures.
It’s likely you’ve visited or at least heard of this popular waterfall in the Columbia River Gorge before. If you haven’t, it’s a must-see as you travel along the Historic Columbia River Highway Scenic Byway.
It’s a quick stop off the highway and you can walk right up to marvel at the falls without even breaking a sweat. Talk about bang for your buck! You can grab lunch, ice cream, coffee, and other refreshments here as well.
Note: Sadly, during peak tourist season, Multnomah Falls can get very crowded, and there may be a limit on the number of visitors allowed at any given time to manage crowds and ensure visitor safety.
Check the Multnomah Falls website for the most up-to-date updates/conditions. You may need to make reservations to visit.
Continue along the scenic byway running alongside the Columbia River to reach your next stop, the charming town of Hood River. Hood River, also known as the windsurfing capital of the world, hosts a good amount of wineries, breweries, and restaurants.
This is the perfect place to stop for a meal or a cup of coffee. If you’re not feeling hungry, you should still get out of the car to stretch your legs, walk through the town, and peruse the lifestyle/home decor stores and gift shops.
I love this little off-the-road travel attraction! There’s nothing better than visiting a lavender farm during the summer season and attending an annual festival dedicated to ALL things lavender. I mean, talk about unique, right?
At Lavender Valley, you can wander the lovely lavender fields, cut and pick your own lavender, and explore the little gift shop after you’ve enjoyed your stroll through the grounds.
The view of Mt Hood is as intoxicating as its fragrant fields! No lie, the view by far is the best thing here and certainly does not disappoint.
If you’re looking for an alternative, there are other lavender farms in the area including Hood River Lavender Farm.
Address: 5965 Boneboro Rd, Mt Hood, OR 97041
One of the most beautiful waterfalls in the entire Northwest is just a quick hike away on your route from Portland to Bend. The iconic 7-mile roundtrip hike on Ramona Falls Loop Trail provides stellar views of Mt. Hood and the grand Ramona Falls.
The trail itself is relatively easy, but the hike requires either crossing the Sandy River on fallen logs, rock hopping, or trudging through the river. If river crossings aren’t your thing, maybe skip this stop. It’s quite an adventure and totally worth it when you get to feast your eyes on Ramona Falls flowing down 120 feet of sheer basalt rock.
Government Camp sounds much more formal than what it is–a home base for people visiting Mount Hood and exploring the national forest that surrounds the area. “Govey,” as the locals call it, is a quaint alpine village that has plenty of eateries, watering holes, and an abundance of small-town charm.
It’s an excellent place to stretch your legs and use the restroom before continuing on your road trip from Portland to Bend!
As you approach the south side of Mount Hood, take note of the signs for the Timberline Lodge (you’ll be making a left to get there). Timberline Lodge is a magnificent historical mountain lodge, built during the Depression Era. This is yet another great place to grab a bite to eat with a side of awe-inspiring views.
This National Historic Landmark is perhaps most known as the exterior of the Overlook Hotel in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. It’s less than 15 minutes from Government Camp and you can expect to spend about 30 minutes to an hour here.
Just 10 minutes south of Government Camp, you’ll find the picturesque Trillium Lake sitting beautifully among the great outdoors. This lake is all about the view–featuring Mount Hood towering overhead nearby. This creates an amazing mirrored view of its snow-capped peaks, especially on a clear day.
If you have some to spare, consider doing the 1.9-mile loop hike around the lake, kayaking/paddling, fishing, or packing a picnic to enjoy here. Since motorboats are not allowed here, you’ll get an even more peaceful, enjoyable experience!
INDIAN HEAD CASINO / WARM SPRINGS INDIAN MUSEUM
A bit further south on the 26 will bring you to the Indian Head Casino as well as the Warm Springs Indian Museum.
Their proximity to each other will allow you to test your luck with slot machines or table games, AND experience the rich history and culture of this region afterward.
This is an awesome stop if (1) you need to stretch your legs and (2) you’re down to weave in some history/education to your road trip.
Visitors of The Museum at Warm Springs will experience firsthand the sounds of ancient songs and languages, the mastery of traditional craftsmen, and the sights of various cultures that make up the Confederated Tribes of The Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon. The collections of the museum are rotated throughout the year.
PETER SKENE OGDEN STATE SCENIC VIEWPOINT
Located just 9 miles north of Redmond, Peter Skene Ogden State Scenic Viewpoint is a cool roadside attraction. This brief stop boasts a dramatic view of the canyon against the Crooked River. The two sides are connected by historic bridges that create a dramatic glimpse of central Oregon’s geological and historical features.
The parkland was once owned by the Oregon Trunk Railway and was later acquired by the State between 1925 and 1930. Eventually, the park was named after explorer Peter Skene Ogden, who entered the Crooked River Valley in 1825.
This viewpoint is perfect for photography lovers! Another good reason to stop? There are restrooms and picnic areas in case you need a scenic break that doesn’t involve seeing the inside of your car.
SMITH ROCK STATE PARK
If you enjoy scenic views of towering canyons or rock climbing, Smith Rock State Park is the place for you. Rock climbers from all over the country flock to Smith Rock State Park to experience the thousands of climbing routes in the park. Here you’ll find dynamic routes that are ideal for various types of climbing and bouldering.
If climbing isn’t your thing, Smith Rock SP is still worth visiting. It’s great for trail running, hiking, wildlife spotting, and mountain biking as well. If you’re looking for a place to camp, the park also has a walk-in area for tent camping on a first-come, first-served basis.
Pro Tip: Smith Rock State Park is a popular attraction, and with that comes potential challenges with parking, especially during the peak season and on weekends. If you want to beat the crowds, visit on a weekday or try to get there before 8am on weekends. The parking/day-use fee costs $5.
CRESCENT MOON ALPACA RANCH
I added this to the list in hopes that anyone reading this is also in love with alpacas as much as I am. At the alpaca ranch, you’ll get the chance to feed the adorable alpaca as well as enjoy the alpaca boutique. It’s only 8 minutes away from Smith Rock, how can you say no?
It’s a fun place to stop, especially if you love animals or are traveling with children. You can expect to spend 45 minutes to 1 hour here.
We missed this on our last road trip, but we’re definitely making it a priority the next time we road trip to Bend, OR!
Redmond is a hub in the high desert along the 26 with a rejuvenated downtown, a growing beer scene, and lots of recreational activities to enjoy.
Head to Downtown Redmond for a light stroll among fine dining restaurants, boutiques, bookstores, and cafes. You’ll also find a few breweries in Redmond including Kobold, Initiative, Cascade Lakes, and Wild Ride.
For family-friendly fun, check out Splash Park or the ice rink in the heart of the city. Near the airport is the Deschutes Fair & Expo Center, which hosts a wide range of events, concerts, trade shows, automobile shows, and more.
Redmond is also where the Deschutes County Fair & Rodeo is held in August. It’s a big deal, so if you’re planning a road trip during the month of August, try to make this one!
Looking for another high desert town to explore? When you pull into the Old West town of Sisters, OR, you’ll feel like you’ve just been transported back in time.
This friendly little town in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains attracts visitors for its natural beauty as well as annual celebrations like the Sisters Rodeo (June), the Sisters Quilt Show (July) and the Sister Folk Festival (September).
Take a stroll down the main street, hike the nearby trails, and enjoy the Wild West village atmosphere of Sisters.
Welcome to Bend, you made it through your road trip! If you didn’t know, Bend, Oregon is an absolute outdoor haven all year round.
Personally speaking, I am obsessed with Bend. If I was made of money, THIS would be where I would buy a house. Easy decision!
I absolutely love how green and friendly the entire town of Bend is. The plethora of hiking trails, waterfalls, and in-town things to do still steals my heart to this day. (Someone, buy me a house here already!!)
Summers are ideal for hiking, biking, rock climbing, and water sports, while winters are perfect for skiing or snowboarding on Mt. Bachelor. It’s the ultimate land of outdoor adventure, and you can’t forget about the craft beer tasting! Seriously, the sheer amount of fun you can have here is unreal.
There’s a lot to do within the city limits and even more to do outside of them. Check out our full list of 30+ best things to do in Bend here.
WHERE TO STAY IN BEND, OR
We love staying in Bend whenever we get the chance! Our top recommendations include these super-stylish and affordable hotels:
- LOGE Bend – Features stylish, rustic rooms; LOGE provides city bikes that are complimentary for use and offers evening entertainment and a shared kitchen.
- Riverhouse on the Deschutes – A clean, spacious, pet-friendly hotel featuring a restaurant, seasonal outdoor pool, hot tub, fitness center, and a bar. Downtown Bend is 5 minutes’ drive away.
- Pine Ridge Inn – Located 2 miles from Downtown Bend, Pine Ridge Inn is just 1 mile away from the Old Mill District. They offer very open and spacious suites with king-sized beds and a sofa bed. They are pet-friendly and offer an awesome free breakfast.
ROAD TRIP PREPARATION: RENTAL CARS
If you don’t have a car or don’t have a reliable car you trust to get you out of Portland and back in one piece, I suggest you pick up a rental car for your road trip.
Need a rental car for your trip? To find cheap rental cars, I recommend using Rentalcars.com. Their search tool is one of the best I’ve found!
ROAD TRIP PREPARATION: LODGING/HOTELS
If you’re a planner like me, you’re probably going to want to book all your lodging before you leave. I don’t know about you, but the thought of not having a place to stay (or paying an arm and a leg to get a room last-minute) just makes me uneasy.
Be sure to book your lodging before you leave, or as soon as possible really, especially if you’re planning on staying at a specific hotel or yurt that you’ve been eyeing for some time.
If you are more of a spontaneous traveler, get the HotelTonight app. HotelTonight offers steeply discounted hotel prices for those last-minute bookings, perfect for spontaneous road trippers.
ROAD TRIP PREPARATION: ROAD CONDITIONS
Right before your trip, check Google Maps or TripCheck (by the Oregon Department of Transportation) before you hit the road.
We actually like TripCheck a little bit more for this exercise, because not only does it provide you with live road condition information, but it also gives you live weather alerts as well. There are even live cameras you can check out to see exactly how snowy a mountain pass may be or how bad the traffic is in the city. Though not as detailed as within Oregon, the highway condition information even extends to nearby states!